Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 18, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, low and behold the US military announces deaths, Blackwater remains in at least semi-hot water, IVAW deserves tremendous credit and applause for their leadership on Saturday, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  On Saturday in DC, demonstrations against the illegal war started a new phase of activism.  As Feminist Wire Daily noted, "Several women's groups, including CODEPINK and the National Congress of Black Women, sponsored a women's convergence earlier in the day before joining the larger rally at the White House before the march." But this was the event at which Iraq Veterans Against the War truly made their presence felt.  That is not taking anything away from A.N.S.W.E.R., CODEPINK or anyone else; however, part of the strength of the action may be due to those organizations who refused to participate?  Regardless, IVAW's membership continues to grow and their voices are among the surest and loudest out there.  Mike Ferner (Dissident Voice) reports on IVAW and we'll pick it up with war resister Eli Israel who is the first US service member to publicly refuse to serve while stationed in Iraq: "Eli Isreal, a native Kentuckian who had already completed a hitch in the Marines and then enlisted in the Army after September 11, 2001, repeated the Enlistment Oath taken by every person joining the military, that swears them to protect and defend the US Constitution against 'all enemies, foreign and domestic.'  He asked the crowds on the sidewalks to consider what they would do 'when your leaders tell you to fight an unjust war based on lies.  The Occupation of Iraq is a form of terrorism and we refuse to support it!'  With his comrades falling quiet and raising their fists high in the air in salute, the former Military Secret Security sergeant who guarded General Petraeus 'and all those other bastards,' said 'We walk in silence for our brothers and sisters who died for a lie.  We didn't join the military to become slaves to the military-industrial complex.  We joined to serve our country."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.
Ferner also recounts how Adam Kokesh provided "one of the most memorable moments of the day" when, leading a march past pro-war hawks, he declared, "Column, HALT! Left FACE!" so that the verterans were facing the pro-war hawks with Kokesh saluting leaving "the gathered eagles momentarily taken aback and the crowd cheering."  Rebecca offers her thoughts on Saturday's actions, "i was really impressed with the huge turnout.  as you probably noticed, some organizations elected to sit out and not promote the action.  even so, even without them, the turnout was huge" and, of the police attacks on the demonstrators, "i imagine we'll see more attacks like that on the people.  it's really the only hope there is to continue the illegal war."  Escambray notes, "Capitol Hill security guards doused the demonstrators with chemicals after dozens laid on the street to symbolically represent the thousands of US soldiers killed in the Iraq war".
Adam Kokesh was among the speakers and has posted his speech (at Sgt. Kokesh Goes to Washington): "As we all know now, we were lied into this war and is lies that are keeping us there.  They lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction, they lied about Jessica Lynch, they lied about Pat Tillman, and they lied about Al Qaeda and Saddam.  And those are just the lies we know about!  But I'm not so mad that I was lied to, as I am that I cannot trust my government any more.  It astounds me that yet so many Americans want more than anything to trust out government.  When will we wake up, and realize that the power of the truth is greater than any force brought to bear by any Army ever fielded?"
Among the other speakers were Ralph Nader.  Nader, as many have noted, was not invited to speak at the last big DC rally.  Though some cries of "Apologize for the war!" could be heard as Nader began to speak, they died down quickly.  (For the record, Nader doesn't owe an apology for an illegal war that he did not start.  Nor do those running Al Gore's 2000 campaign need to apologize for an illegal war that Gore did not start.)  Nader noted that, "The impeachable offenses of Bush outnumber the impeachable offenses of any US president."  He took Congressional 'leadership' to task for their refusal to impeach the Bully Boy.  His critique was greeted with huge cheers.  And, by the end of his speech, sounded like someone running for the presidency.  (Community note, Nader's speech runs in full in today's Hilda's Mix.)  Nader has not announced an intent to run but a campaign to draft him into running, "Run, Ralph Run!", has been started.
Staying with US politics, one effort a draft campaign appears to have not been successful.  Kimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) reports on former US House Rep's Cynthia McKinney's decision not to seek the presidential nomination of the Green Party for 2008.  The Green Party's convention is scheduled to take place from July 10th through July 13th in Chicago, IL. Last week, the Green Party issued a statement noting that they "will use their presence in various antiwar demonstrations and other events throughout September and October to press the Green Party's demand for immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq" and quotes the co-chair of the party's Peace Action Committee Deanna Taylor stating, "The greatest danger to the peace movement is that organizations and voters who oppose the war are being fooled into seeing the election of Democrats as a step towards peace, stability, and the observance of human rights in the Middle East."  In Democratic Party news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes that "Congressman Dennis Kucinich has accused Democratic Party leaders in Iowa of excluding him from two presidential events this week.  On Sunday six of the Democratic candidates were invited to speak to over 12,000 Democratic voters at Senator Tom Harkin's Steak Fry.  But Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel were not invited.  They also weren't invited to a recent Democratic presidential forum in Davenport Iowa.  Kucinich said: 'When Party leaders and their allies pre-select which candidates they will allow the voters to hear, it's a disservice to the voters.  Iowans deserve better than a rigged game."  Saturday, Trina (Trina's Kitchen) recapped some of the developments in Kucinich's campaign including a new staffer, retired Army Capt. Mike Klein, Kucinich's criticism of the illegal war -- "a smokescreen to cover the immorality and criminality of the real reason he took us to war and the reason he refuses to end it: oil" -- his hosting of a student debate in Florida and his campaigning in Hawaii -- the state Democratic presidential candidates tend to write off (at their own risk). TransWorldNews notes of Gravel that the "former Alaska Senator, is not shy about placing the blame for the length of the War in Iraq on the current crop of Democrats eyeing the nomination for President.  Especially front runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, according to Gravel, as they were in a position to do something about the country's involvement [but] when the opportunity presented itself chose to fault others instead of taking the appropriate action."
Turning to the subject of US mercenaries.  Blackwater's latest slaughter continues to garner attention.  On Sunday, Blackwater fired into crowds and they've repeatedly changed their story ever since.  Are the mercenaries in our out?  Martin Fletcher (Times of London) notes that any effort to eject them from Iraq -- any Iraqi effort -- "would be resisted strenuously by the US Government, whose security arrangements will be thrown into chaos if Blackwater can no longer operate in Iraq."  Which is why US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice spent 15 minutes on the phone with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) noted that "several contractors predicted Monday that it was unlikely the Iraqi government would carry through with the threat to expel Blackwater."For all intents and purposes they belong to the [U.S.] Department of State," one contractor said of Blackwater employees".  Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reports on "an extraordinary telephone news conference, the US embassy spokeswoman could not answer whether the company was still working for the Americans inside the Green Zone, or what its legal position was along with similar foreign contractors within Iraq."  Sengupta also notes the ever changing story of Blackwater for why the opened fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians killing at least 8 on Sunday.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes that Ali Dabbagh spoke to the press in Baghdad and noted that the Iraqi investigation "had found that guards with the private security company Blackwater USA had fired without provocation on a Baghdad traffic circle, killing eight people and wounding 13"  and that a child was among the dead.  As Leila Fadel, Joseph Neff and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) point out, "Whether the Iraqi Interior Ministry will be able to enforce its decision to ban North Carolina-based Blackwater Security from operating in Iraq is likely to be a major test between the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the United States. Blackwater, founded by a major Republican Party benefactor, is among the most prominent -- and most controversial -- of dozens of companies that provide security to both government and private individuals in Iraq.  In 2003, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority exempted the companies and their employees from prosecution under Iraqi law, but Iraqi officials disputed whether that exemption remains in effect, and U.S. officials declined to comment."
Today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explored the topic with Jeremy Scahill -- journalist and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army -- and Doug Brooks who is the president of International Peace Operations Association ("a trade group for the private secuirty industry")
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, clearly, Nouri al-Maliki made the mistake of believing that there is a sovereign Iraqi government for about fifteen minutes over the past twenty-four hours, and it appears now that there's a real diplomatic shuffle going on. Condoleezza Rice called Nouri al-Maliki ostensibly to apologize, but it does seem that the US is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the Iraqi government not to expel Blackwater.
And, you know, what's important to understand about this is that Blackwater is a relatively small player, in terms of numbers in Iraq. They have about a thousand operatives on the ground inside of the country. But symbolically, this is of enormous importance, because Blackwater is the official mercenary company of the US government. They protect the senior US officials in Iraq, the US ambassador. My understanding is that it was a chief of mission operation that they were protecting yesterday, which could mean that it was a very senior US official that the principal or the noun, so to speak.
But we also have to say, there's nothing new here. Iraqis for four years have been terrorized by these mercenaries, who ride around the country, and they'll do anything to keep their ever-important US lives protected, even if it means shooting Iraqi civilians. And so, if Iraq does follow through on this and expel Blackwater, it would be an extraordinary development.
[. . .]
I mean, the reality here is that every time Iraq has made any kind of noise about prosecuting contractors, the contractors are whisked out. It becomes a major discussion between Washington and Baghdad diplomats. And the fact of the matter is, this is solid proof. There is no sovereignty in Iraq of the government at all. The US gutted out the Iraqi legal system, made it virtually impossible for Iraqis to hold accountable murderers and thugs inside of the country who are foreign operatives. And so, when the Bush administration talks about how great everything is going in Baghdad, we have to remember that when US mercenaries shoot Iraqis, the Iraqis are basically powerless to stop them.
Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism  is out today in the United States and from the book we'll note this on the lives of Iraqis:
It began, as it often does, with the disappearance of women behind viels and doors, then the children disappeared from the schools -- as of 2006, two-thirds of them stayed home.  Next came the professionals: doctors, professors, entrepreneurs, scientists, pharmacists, judges, lawyers. 
[. . .]
That is what happenes with projects to build model societies in other people's countries.  The cleansing campaigns are rarely premeditated.  It is only when the people who live on the land refuse to abandon their past that the dream of the clean slate morphs into its doppelganger, the scorched earth -- only then that the dream of toral creation morphs into a campaign of total destruction. 
The unanticipated violence that now engulfs Iraq, is the creation of the lethally optimistic architects of the war -- it was preordained in that original seemingly innocuous, even idealistic phrase: "a model for a new Middle East." The disintegration of Iraq has its roots in the ideology that demanded a tabu rase on which to write its new story.  And when no such pristine tableua presented itself, the supporter of that ideology proceeded to blast and surge and glast again in the hope of reaching the promised land.
On Democracy Now! today, Doug Brooks declared that the mercenaries (Blackwater, et al) were "better than US soldiers" (Goodman asked that, Brooks replied "Absolutely").  And Jeremey Scahill noted, "Well, I think that most people in the world first learned of Blackwater USA on March 31st, 2004, when four Blackwater operatives were ambushed and killed in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Their bodies were burned, they were dragged through the streets, strung up from a bridge over the Euphrates River. And the Bush administration responded to that attack by leveling Fallujah and destroying the city. In fact, it was the first of a number of sieges against the city of Fallujah, and it really fueled the Iraqi resistance that haunts the occupation to this day. That was the first time that many people heard of any kind of a private security or private military company, a mercenary company, operating in Iraq."  The two slaughters of Falluja.  Stemming from that incident (caused in part by Paul Bremer shutting down a press because he didn't care for a cartoon mocking him).  Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) sidesteps that reality (possibly because Dexy Filkins provided rah-rah coverage of the November 2004 slaughter?) and offers that "One of the most terrifying images of the war for Americans involved four of Blackwater's contractors in Falluja who were killed in 2004, and their bodies hung from a bridge."  That was the most terrifying image?  For Americans?  Tavernise thinks Americans weren't shocked by the bombings in northern Iraq that claimed approximately 500 lives on one day this summer?  If Tavernise isn't speaking for the State Dept (a constant problem for the Times), she might want to consider -- among many other attacks -- the June 16, 2006 attack in Youssifiyah in which US service members David Baineau, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were killed with the latter two's corpses being discovered after they'd been tortured to death.  Clearly the US State Dept saw the Falluja attack as the worst but Tavernise might want to explain why she sees it as such.  Tavernise does mange to reveal that an employee of Blackwater (apparently drunk) shot dead the bodyguard of Iraq's Shi'ite vice president on Christmas Eve (2006) and was faced no charges (in Iraq or the US) but got whisked out of the country and she notes that "A law issued by the American authority in Iraq before the United States handed over soverieignty to Iraqis, Order No. 17, gives the companies immunity from iraqi law.  A security expert based in Baghdad said Monday night that the order, issued in 2004, had never been overturned."  One of the Bremer orders that the press wasn't overly interested in covering in real time.
Staying with the US State Dept for a minute more, CBS and AP report, 'A congressional committee has launched an investigation into the State Department's Inspector General, alleging that he blocked fraud investigations, including potential security lapses at the newly built U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Also under scrutiny is whether a major security firm was 'illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq,' according to a letter to IG Howard J. Krongard that was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left two police officers wounded, a Baghdad bus bombing that claimed 2 lives and left five wounded and 3 Baghdad car bombings that claimed a total of 13 lives and left 35 wounded. Reuters notes a bombing in Jalawla that claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi civilians (fourteen more wounded), a Mosul car bombing that left two Iraqi soldiers wounded
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports assailant attacked a representative of Ayatollah Sistani in Basra (Emad Abdul Kareem) while he was departing a mosque leaving him wounded and 1 of his guards dead.  Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead in Shirqat.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes that 3 corpses were discovered in Mosul and 3 in Qaim.
In a novel development, the US military announced deaths today: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Diyala Province, Tuesday, following an explosion."  ICCC's total for the number of US service members killed in the illegal war now stands at 3786 (with 44 for the month).  If that number suprises many it may be because the total stood at 3781 Sunday night.  As noted this morning, the names of two who had died were announced by the Defense Dept on Monday; however, M-NF never announced those deaths.  The usual pattern is what M-NF has done today with the "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in . . . "  After that, the US Defense Dept follows up by releasing the names of the dead after the next of kin has been notified.  Altering the process allows them to hide the deaths.  M-NF didn't stop putting out their press releases -- they were still, for instance, happy to offer "Soldiers take citizenship oath" -- they just stopped announcing the deaths.  They've done that before, they will do it again.  Because M-NF finally did their job, Reuters was able to report on the deaths and note the count is 3,784 US service members killed in the illegal war thus far.  The 3800 mark looms.
Meanwhile the US people still want US troops withdrawn even if their represenatives (and sadly, an apologist in the peace movement) don't see it as anything to get too worked up over.  CBS' latest poll came out yesterday and 68% still is calling for troops to be brought home.
But there are some lies that are being told to our children every day in order to convince them to sign up to be sent into the Baghdad meat grinder. Proponents of the policy in Iraq are quick to point out that everyone in the military volunteered, but what does that mean if most of them were tricked into enlisting by the lies that recruiters tell every day? It means that to support the troops means to cut through the lies, bring them home, and stop this criminal occupation!
And we are back to Adam Kokesh.  The above was part of his speech delivered Saturday in DC.  Iraq Veterans Against the War have kicked off Truth in RecruitingMaureen O'Donnell (Chicago Sun-Times) reports on yesterday's actions in Chicago with IVAW's Aaron Hughes explaining, "Every minute that a recruiter's spending with someone from the movement is a minute that they're not recruiting for the war" and O'Donnel notes that five demonstrators were in the army recruiting station on 1239 N. Clybourn,  Chicago's WBEZ (91.5 FM) notes that IVAW "hopes to keep the campaign going until the war stops."  Chicago's WLS-TV quotes Huges stating, "We are asking people to go befriend recruiters, spend time with them -- find out the real issues.  Find out all the things that they're telling you, that they're offering you, and then talk to a veteran and realize how much of that's not true."
Saturday was a strong moment for IVAW and they deserve nothing but praise for their leadership and actions.  War Hawks are e-mailing regarding a story and we'll note it here.  Alan Garthright and Hector Gutierrez (Rocky Mountain News) have reported that Iraq vet Ricardo Cortez who was apparently speaking out against the illegal war is now held on charges in an attack on "his estranged wife . . . [and] her companion".  If Cortez is guilty, and not to minimize or excuse his actions, it only demonstrates again the way that the Veterans Affairs Dept. is failing veterans who return and need help.  This is not the first act of violence -- if Cortez committed it -- committed by a veteran -- in this illegal war or any other -- nor is it as though the civilian population doesn't also get charged with violent crimes.  If Cortez did do what he's charged with, this goes to the lack of medical screening for returning veterans and those e-mailing who thinks this 'proves' anything about veterans against the illegal war should be aware that many pro-war veterans have been charged with much worse including murdering their wives.  The issue isn't their stance on the Iraq War, the issue is most likely the lack of medical attention that the military is providing to those returning. 

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